MANILA — The Philippines should be able to reach herd immunity against COVID-19 by 2023 or possibly sooner, the Department of Health said on Monday.
Herd immunity refers to when enough members of a population are immune to a disease, preventing it from being spread further. The Philippines aims to inoculate around 70 million against the coronavirus to achieve this.
“Sa tingin natin, mukhang mas maaga natin ma-achieve. Hindi aabutin ng tatlong taon, then, we can achieve this end goal that we would want for our population,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing when asked about reports that the Philippines is taking longer than other countries to rollout its COVID-19 vaccines.
(We think we can achieve this goal that we want for our population earlier. It won’t take 3 years.)
Vergeire said the end goal is herd immunity, although she acknowledged that all countries face vaccine supply challenges.
While the Philippine government has set its vaccine deployment to reach its targeted population by 2023, the official said they still hope to finish it much earlier.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Monday that the government is ready to launch its COVID-19 vaccination drive next week.
"Ilang tulog na lang, mga kaibigan, at dadating na ang unang batch ng ating bakuna. Ready or not, handang-handa po ang ating gobyerno para magsimula ang ating vaccination drive itong a-15 ng Pebrero," Roque told reporters in a separate briefing.
(Just a few more nights of sleep, friends, and the first batch of our vaccine will arrive. Our government is very prepared for our vaccination drive to start this Feb. 15.)
Vergeire emphasized that in the meantime, the objective right now is to reduce morbidity and mortality.
She said vaccines would lower the chances of a severe infection and hospitalization.
“If you have lesser chances of having severe infection, you lessen the chances of you dying or that person dying. Yan ang ating immediate objective sa ngayon (That’s our immediate objective for now),” she said.
Lowering the number of people with COVID-19 symptoms would also lessen the sources of the disease, she added.
And lowering the utilization of hospitals would lessen as well the burden on the country's health system and the economy itself, said Vergeire.
The World Health Organization earlier said it would be impossible to reach herd immunity against COVID-19 for the whole world by this year.
Some countries though like those in Europe and the United States might reportedly achieve it earlier than those without as much access or resources.
The Philippines has recorded 537,310 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Sunday, including 26,333 active infections, 11,179 fatalities, and 499,798 recoveries.